A school in one of Detroit's toughest neighborhoods is not just building stronger minds, they are laying the foundation for healthier bodies.
With some uncertainty, but absolute determination, students at the YMCA Detroit Leadership Academy are embracing new beginnings by starting their school day with yoga.
"It's teaching you to, even though you work hard, you need to relax," said fifth grader Justin White.
Hard work is exactly what's going on at this charter school on Detroit's northwest side. Here, high expectations are placed on the 300 plus students.
"We want every kid to have a love for learning. We want every child to learn what it means to be a good citizen. We want every child to create their own strong set of ethics," said Scott Landry with the YMCA of Metro Detroit. "We want every child to learn what it means to live healthy."
The focus on mind, body and spirit comes from the connection with the YMCA. Opening in the fall of 2010, the academy is run by the State of Michigan and managed by the YMCA.
"Part of our mantra is the seven habits of highly effective people," said principal Julian Roper.
The curriculum is inspired by internationally known motivator Dr. Steven Covey. Lessons are learned from the classroom to the kitchen. Healthy cooking classes are offered to students and their families so the good habits extend beyond the school walls.
"Our parents are able to come in with the students and the families to learn how to cook healthier meals, how to have some healthier habits in their home," Roper explained.
In the middle of an impoverished neighborhood, these children are learning life changing leadership and living skills.
"Staying healthy and eating right and drink lots of water," said fifth grader Crystal Jerigan.
One of the greatest teaching tools is actually well outside the classroom. It's in the garden. That is where kids are planting, nourishing and harvesting vegetables and herbs. Not only are they helping to feed the community, but they're eating it themselves.
"We pick tomatoes sometimes, so we get to have it for a snack," second grader Moneia Napier explained.
For some students, the lessons are critical like for ten-year-old Taylor Hinton. The fourth grader has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but thanks to the academy, she's understanding she can change her life and her health.
"The reason I have sugar diabetes, I eat too much sugar," she said.
Learning how to do better, one child at a time. That's the goal.
"We care about kids. We love kids not just academically -- that's very important, that's number one -- but also a healthy mind, body and spirit," Roper said.
Right now the academy is kindergarten through sixth grade. Next year the academy plans to expand to include seventh graders with a long-term goal of creating a YMCA leadership high school.
You can learn more about the school at www.ydetroitacademy.org.